The Democrats claim to be the party of the working man and woman. But their elected officials have a taste for luxury living. The New York Sun wrote in an October 17, 2006 editorial, "Reid of the Ritz," commenting on news that the Democratic Party's leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, has as his Washington residence a condominium in the Ritz Carlton:
The Democrats, who tout themselves as the party of the common man, are rapidly turning into the party of the plutocrats. The Democratic Party's candidate for Senate in Connecticut, Ned Lamont of Greenwich, is an heir to a J.P. Morgan fortune who has spent $10 million of his own money trying to purchase a Senate seat. The Democratic Party's candidate for governor in New York, Eliot Spitzer, is accused by his Republican rival of having begun his political career with a $9 million loan from his father.
Senator Clinton, who seeks to be the standard-bearer in 2008, splits her time between a $2.8 million mansion in Washington that recently underwent an expansion and upgrade that cost an additional $900,000, and a $1.7 million, 5-bedroom house with a swimming pool in the Westchester town of Chappaqua. Senator Kerry, the party's nominee for president in 2004, lives in a $10 million townhouse on Louisburg Square in Boston's Beacon Hill and summers at Nantucket. The Rockefeller in the Senate is a Democrat who represents West Virginia. These columns have nothing against either luxury housing or prosperity, but at a certain point it is going to become hard for the Democratic Party's leaders to assail the Republicans as the party of the rich without blushing, or without a chuckle from ordinary Americans who follow the news.
The latest example of this trend is a report in today's New York Times on the governor of New York, another Democrat, David Paterson. Mr. Paterson's stay at the Ritz was paid for by his campaign fund, the Times reports:
The governor attributed more than $1,800 in charges at the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota, Fla., to a trip he made to meet with someone he hoped could help him raise money. Asked if his trip broke even, he said, "I didn't go down there for that reason," adding: "I have a cousin who's ill in Sarasota. I went down to see my cousin." Mr. Paterson noted, "I mean, I did sit by the pool at the hotel, I will admit to that — that was kind of vacation-oriented."
If you want campaign funds to spend on the Ritz, you have to work hard at raising them. The Times has this explanation from the governor of why he spent so much time in the Hamptons this summer.
About his time in the Hamptons last summer, for example, he said he stayed there because he had fallen behind in his fund-raising and thought it would be wise to meet with wealthy donors, many of whom had gone there at that time of year.
"Where are the people who are giving me the money?" he said. "They're in the Hamptons."
If New York were in better shape in terms of economic competitiveness, taxes, and job creation, no one would care much how the governor spent his time. But the Times report is not a particularly attractive portrait of Mr. Paterson.